WA’s frantic efforts to tackle one health crisis leaves another exposed

Twenty-four school nurses would help vaccinate about 70,000 recipients per week, compared to 55,000, and nursing assistants would replace more highly qualified registered nurses, the minister said.

“There is a significant program of work going on right now to try to bring our hospital and our retired nurses back to hospitals so that we can have these people available in our hospital care systems, but make sure we let’s not attract people. of our vaccines, ”Cook said Tuesday.

“So we are trying to find that balance.”

WA’s School-Aged Health Service Review found mental health to be the number one concern and priority for school nurses.Credit:ACSS Report

But the withdrawal of nurses from schools will have a ripple effect if we are to believe the “School-Aged Health Service Review” conducted by the CAHS in 2019.

He revealed that “children and youth with chronic or complex health conditions including mental health and well-being, obesity, sexual health, diabetes and asthma” should be given priority and given priority. easy access to community health nurses (CHNs) in schools.

The nine key recommendations to be rolled out in early 2020 identified “mental health issues as the greatest health and wellness concern” and the need for highly skilled nurses in schools since “ SAIs have expressed concerns about their ability to support young mental health problems, especially when families cannot access specialized or acute services within a reasonable time ”.

Today also saw community child health nurses who monitor newborn development work at the Claremont Showgrounds vaccination center ahead of the announcement.

Kwinana vaccination center coordinator Debbie Rolls, who was previously a freelance neonatal clinical nurse at Fiona Stanley Hospital, said they were getting a lot more staff from CAHS after an “incredible” recruitment drive at the clinic since its opening in June.

“We gathered staff from all over the place, but the majority of us were actually from Fiona Stanley – so we were running the Fiona Stanley vaccination clinic and the Harry Perkins building,” she said.

ACSS provides community health services for indigenous and refugee children, schools and immunization; children’s mental health services; neonatal clinics; Perth Children’s Hospital; and Midland Hospital and Health Center.

“The condition we are in is horrible, it is a horror sight, the worst I have seen in 23 years.”

Mark Olson, ANF Secretary of State

Mr Cook admitted on Wednesday that CAHS staff in hospitals were running the vaccination clinics.

“Look at the origin; we had to endow many of our [vaccine] clinics with nurses who would otherwise have practiced in hospitals and we have undertaken a program in the last few weeks to bring more nurses to our vaccination clinics, ”he said.

Children’s mental health figures have skyrocketed, with 7,217 young people seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in 2019-2020, up from 6,319 the previous year.

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In February 2021, there were 1,307 admissions of mental health inpatients to Washington hospitals, of which 47% were admitted through an emergency department. A mother in March said Today of her struggle to get her son admitted to PCH with severe psychosis due to a lack of beds.

Morale at PCH has bottomed out following Aishwarya Aswath’s death in the hospital waiting room on April 3, with many nurses calling in sick or taking stress leave.

The Australian Nursing Federation has reported that PCH has a nurse responsible for more than seven patients – when the safety ratio is one to four in a general ward – with no nurse available to help with procedures or to build a full resuscitation team. , and no nurse in the waiting room on weekends.

As of Monday, there were 290 admissions to the PCH emergency department, nearly double the 160 usually recorded admissions, with Cook calling it a “tough gig.”

ANF ​​Secretary of State Mark Olson said nurses were exhausted after unprecedented overtime and double shifts, while feeling scared and overwhelmed with guilt for not wanting to let their colleagues complete a shift.

“The condition we are in is horrible, it is a horror sight, the worst I have seen in 23 years,” said Mr. Olson.

“We are in a state of emergency and the minister will have to start closing beds due to understaffing as he continues to promise more beds with no one to fill them.”

He said Today that WA nurses were being stolen from one region to another after the government had known for more than four years that its system was crippled by population growth and the “tsunami of chronic disease”.

“Most of the problems we see in the health care system are exacerbated by underlying problems that have been expected for decades,” said Mr. Olson.

“The problem is, no one has done anything to counter them. “

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Mr Cook said they had brought 100 nurses into PCH since April and was addressing the problem by increasing the number of graduate nurses in hospitals from 700 to 1,000 for this year and next year as “the largest number of people in the history of the state “.

“It is part of the Labor Party’s campaign commitment in the last election, but also part of an increase in capacity, that the department undertakes to continue to develop our nursing workforce,” he said.

Mr Cook said he would free up hospital nurses by using nursing assistants – who have a slightly lower or different skill level – in vaccination centers.

“All nurses, if they get into a COVID [vaccine] clinic, take a training course – in addition to what are already basic clinical studies – to administer the vaccination safely, ”he said.

Staff at the Royal Perth Hospital said Today that hospitals already had a lot of junior nurses and the huge gaps in the system were senior nurses, with a lack of skills and an overabundance of graduates who felt under-supervised and under-qualified for lack of practical experience afterwards have been produced by universities.

Mr Olson said that while the state government increased the placement of graduate nurses in hospitals, there were no trained staff to oversee them and those numbers barely covered nurse attrition rates. retiring, having children, or seeking less stressful work in other industries.

“The whole thing is smoke and mirrors,” he said.

A head nurse of the emergency department of the RPH confided to this Today reporter, there was also no “surge capacity” to deal with COVID-19, with everyone working at full capacity every day just to handle the current cases that are coming in and have been for nearly two years.

This then raises the question of whether, as Mr Cook suggests, WA “is in the explosive zone of the pandemic”, what will happen when there are no more nurses to change?

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